Packing To Save Money on Your Overnight Trips

This is fresh in my head as I’m already starting to pack for our upcoming vacation.  (So Excited!) I’m a planner.  There’s obvious things you’ll take with you changes of clothes, maybe bathing suits if you’re going some where with swimming, toothbrush, etc.  But then there’s things you might not necessarily thing about until you get there.  Here are some tips on how to pack to save money.

Check the Amenities – If you’re staying overnight in a hotel, resort, or bed and breakfast check out what amenities they offer.  Does your hotel or condo have washers and dryers?  If so they probably aren’t going to just give your laundry detergent.  You can consider getting a small or trial size bottle of detergent to take with you.  Maybe you love free samples like me and have a few sample packets of detergent laying around.  There are also more portable detergents like pods or detergent strips you can put into a small container and take with you.  Just be sure to label it.

Dizolve laundry detergent
Example of Laundry strips that can be easily packed from

What kinds of hygiene products does the hotel or resort provide.  Many provide shampoo and soap but not all provide toothpaste, shaving cream, etc.  If they have a website, you might be able to find info online.  If not, you could always call and ask. Some will provide complimentary products but don’t count on it.  You may end up spending bigger bucks in a convenience store for something you already have sitting at home. You don’t even have to go out and buy travel size.  If you have small reusable bottles at home you can fill them to take with you.  Just be sure to mark them so you know what is what.

How to Pack Can Save you Money –  Packing smart can save you money.  We don’t have a lot of room in our vehicle for storage once everyone is in and comfortable.  We have a small trunk space.  I’m having the kids pack their things in backpacks as opposed to suitcase. For one, it takes up less room and too we don’t need to rent or buy additional storage for our vehicle like a trailer or rooftop luggage carrier.  Also, a minor point is that the more weight that is in your car the worse your gas mileage will be. It may not make a huge difference for one trip but if you take frequent overnight trips, it could add up.  My husband and I share the same suitcase.  We put the additional hygiene products and stuff in their too.  Just be sure to put them in one or two layers of freezer bags so if they pop open they don’t ruin your stuff.

Check Out the Weather – You may already have an idea what the temps will be like where you are headed.  For instance if you’re headed to the beach in August there’s a good chance it will be warm. It’s a good idea to check out the extended for cast though a week or so ahead of time to see what temps will be like at night.  We were planning on seeing the movies on the beach the first week of August.  One might assume it would be warm but when I checked the overnight temps for that time frame it said it would drop into the low 60s overnight which might be a little chilly, especially by the water. You might want to consider packing a light jacket and jeans.  You don’t want to assume then get down there and find out you need to go buy a pair of jeans or a blanket just to go do one activity.

While you’re thinking about packing your vehicle, also thinking about checking your vehicle for a safer and stress-free trip.  Check out my guest post on on tips to prep your vehicle to ensure fun ride.





Free Things to do in Ocean City, MD

My family and I will be heading to Ocean City, MD soon and we can’t wait.  Did you know that Ocean City, MD is #5 in the top 10 US vacation spots as published by Trip Advisor?  It’s true. It’s been years since we’ve gone to Ocean City, MD so for months I’ve been planning, figuring out a budget, making a list of things we’ll want or need to take with us, etc.  (I’m a planner, I can’t help it).  Ocean City is also known as one of the best family beach vacation spots for the North East area.

Ocean City Maryland sign

Anywho, in my research I found that there are actually tons of low cost and even free things to do in Ocean City, MD.  I mean stuff you’d actually want to see and do!  Once thing at the top of our list is movies on the beach.  For 2014, there seem to be three different locations up and down Ocean City that are hosting these movies on the beach.  The Carousel, Princess Royale, and movies on he beach at 27th street.  They’re free!  Just bring your chairs, blankets, or towels and sit on the beach and watch a movie. Check the days because each one does it on a different day. You could actually do this a few times depending on how long you’re staying there.  Honestly I’ve heard of this being done other places too.  They did similar thing when we went to Myrtle Beach.  This would truly be a unique a memorable experience. Tips from veteran OC tourists tell you to take a flashlight too so you can find your things once the movies over. (They can’t just turn the lights on right?)

There are free concerts at the beach on the boardwalk.  Just bring chairs or blankets and enjoy the sound while catching a summer ocean breeze.

Don’t be afraid to search for events too. My oldest son is a real outdoorsman. He was excited to find out that the White Marlin Open will be going on while we’re in OC.  By doing just a little research we found out that spectators can go to the marina between 4-9 pm each day of the event to see the anglers bringing in White Marlin to be weighed.  My son is so dead set on going to this.  It’s free.  We even found out that you can catch a shuttle over from the convention center which will be nice for me to avoid some traffic.

There seem to be a few parks and playgrounds in the area too.  Even a dog playground!

There are beach fireworks displays and even a light show.  I would have loved to see that but unfortunately the dates don’t align with our time in OC.  Definitely check it out though if you happen to be there for one of the displays.

Of course there is the beach for lots of free fun: swimming, playing in the sand, collecting shells, beach volleyball, etc.

I found these sites to be great resources for our trip and will hopefully help you too:

Have you been to Ocean City, MD?  What did you like to do while you were there?  Did you have a favorite place to eat?

Budgeting for a Beach Vacation

As a family of 6 planning, budgeting, and saving are a must if we want to take a vacation. Honestly we only go on vacation every other year.  That works out best financially for us. When we do go on vacation we try to make sure we plan properly to ensure we can enjoy ourselves.  If you’re lucky enough to live close enough to make the beach a day trip you can probably budget a little easier.  For us, where the closest beach coast is a 6 hour drive, it takes a little more planning.

Decide on your destination.  Of course that’s a no brainer.  Can’t go on vacation if you don’t know where you’re going.  We went to Myrtle Beach, SC last vacation.  This year we’re headed to Ocean City Maryland.  We figured the shorter drive would be better for baby. For a family of 6 to fly, just about anywhere, it just wasn’t in our budget. Though to be honest, we got a better price for an ocean view condo in Myrtle Beach than we did for Oceanfront in Ocean City.  Even ocean view was much more expensive than Myrtle Beach. BUT…consider cost of gas (trip will be about half the distance) If you can’t decide on a specific beach, pricing out places to stay might help you decided.

Will you be driving or flying?  As I mentioned above, for a my family of 6 to fly..anywhere really, it’s just not in our budget.  We like to drive, especially with little ones because it’s a little more cost effective and we can control stops, most of the time.  There are some good deals out there for flights though if you’re beach vacation is a bit farther away.

If your driving, plan ahead.  Packing a small cooler with water and other drinks as well as light snacks can cut down on the cost of fast food and things along the way.  You can even pack a full lunch and stop at a nice rest area for lunch.  There are plenty along the way with picnic tables, restrooms, and a few we’ve stopped at even have playgrounds for the kids to burn off some energy and stretch their legs.

Where will you be staying?  There are soooo many option: hotel, beach rental (House or condo), Bed and Breakfast, RV campground, stay with family.  Of course if you have family close that you want to/can stay with that’s usually cheaper but if you don’t weigh your options.  We knew we wanted to be right on the beach.  There are plenty of hotels and condos right on the beach but they will cost more.  Also the room choices differ.  Know your definitions.

Ocean View: This means somewhere in your unit you will have a partial view of the ocean.  When we stayed at Myrtle Beach we had an ocean view.  The balcony from our bedroom had a view of the ocean on the left side but we were facing another building.  It could also mean you could see some of the ocean from a window. This is NOT the same as Ocean front. Ocean view is a nice option if you want to see the ocean but can’t afford the Oceanfront. Below is a picture of the Ocean View from our bedroom balcony.  Not bad right?


Oceanfront: This means you should be directly facing the ocean.  You should be able to see a full view of the ocean and beach from at least some of the windows or your balcony.

Poolview: This option is generally one of the cheaper options.  You will probably not have a view of the ocean but should be able to see the establishments pool.

There may be other options too where they might be cheaper

When looking into your place to stay, check all the options.  Some hotels may offer free continental breakfast which could save you a lot of money, especially if you’re staying for a week or more.  Does your room have a refridgerator, stove, and or microwave?  If so this could save you money on food as well.  What kinds of amenities does the establishment have?  I looked into places that had lazy rivers, playgrounds for the kids, direct beach access, gyms, and activities just for anyone staying at the resort/hotel/condo.  This could save you a lot of money on entertainment as well.  Not to mention the big beautiful beach and ocean.

Look for FREE activities in the area. You may surprised at what there is free to do in the area.  When we went to Myrtle Beach we found out that they do free family movies on the beach.  They weren’t new releases or anything but the experiences of watching a big inflatable screen on the beach is unique in itself.  I was happy to see the Ocean City Maryland offers the same thing.  It seems there was always fireworks too.  Myrtle beach had them near the boardwalk and you can watch for free.  Nothing like watching fireworks over the ocean.  Depending on when you’re going you might also find other family activities on the beach, parades, or community events.  I suggest checking the beaches tourist website.  They’re always chalk full of info for things to do.  Other free activities we love are watching the sun rise and set over the ocean, collecting shells, making sand castles, and simply relaxing on the beach.

Last but not least, I suggest creating an itinerary for your trip before you go.  I did a post on to give you an idea how to do an itinerary.  It can be as specific or general as you want.  Search online and find restaurants you might want to try, attractions you’d like to visit, etc.  You can easily find prices and even menus sometimes online to give you an idea what you’ll be spending.  You can estimate the cost for each activity and this can give you an idea of how much you’ll need for your trip.

What are your tips for a budget friendly beach vacation?


Keeping the Kids Entertained on a Road Trip

We often drive when we go on vacation.  I’ve been known to take all four of the kids to Pittsburgh myself for the day.  In order to keep my sanity, I plan for entertainment along the way.  Driving time can be a great time to connect and catch up on things.  But when your copilot is 4 yr old you might not have a whole lot to say after you’re done talking about preschool, Team Umi Zoomi, and rocket power flying cars that shoot fireworks.  What? You don’t talk about that?

Inevitably you will hear “I’m bored” or “How much longer?”  After a while it starts to wear on your sanity.  So be prepared.  If the kids have hand held gaming systems, Kindles, cell phones, let them bring them along.  Plan on bringing headphones if you don’t want to listen to the candy crush music the whole time or YouTube videos that are only interesting to 10 yr olds.  Charge them ahead of time.  If they have car chargers or back up batteries bring them along too.

Non-electronic items like books, coloring books, travel felt boards, travel size board games, or personal chalk boards can be a great way to keep kids busy without the noise.

One of our fave games to play is the Alphabet game.  You start with the letter “A” each person playing tries to find the letter “A” during the drive.  It could be on a street sign, billboard, a license plate, restaurant sign, or whatever you like.  The way we play, each person has to find it in a different word. If it’s on the same sign it’s ok but they can’t use the same word.  Don’t discount letters like Q or X either because they’re more plentiful than you think.

exit sign 1
If you’re looking for the letter “V” for example, the “V” in Savannah would count

If maybe you could use a little entertainment yourself or want to engage the kiddos a little more there are lots of fun road trip games you can find by searching online or you can check out a little post I wrote here with some ideas.

So tell me, how do you keep your kids entertained on a road trip?  Please visit my guest post on Annville Auto Center’s site for even more ideas.



She’s here, Our baby girl is here

This post is a bit delayed but I wanted to share our good news.  Our baby girl is here and she’s doing well.  She was born March 26.  6lb 5 oz and 18 inches long.  Our family is complete now and we are so happy.

Everyone is doing well.  Her three big brothers are quickly getting used to having a girl around (I mean other than mommy of course).  

This is our first complete family photo.  Dislike that I’m in my hospital gown and didn’t think to do something with my hair but oh well, it’s definitely a special picture for us.

Having a girl is a new experience for us.  Buying pink, purple, glitter and sequence.  Discovering the world of diaper covers, tights, and hair accessories.  I just can’t wait to start dressing her up in her little outfits.

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